Guest column: What can we do to combat the rising crime rate?

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Most informed people will agree that two major reasons for the rising crime rate in Seal Beach are:  We need more police officers on the street; and, the passage of propositions 47 and 57 and AB 109.  The understaffed police department will be addressed at another time.  This article will address what we can do about AB 109 and propositions 47 and 57 which I will briefly outline as a reminder.

AB 109 (Prison Realignment) was passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2011.  It eliminated return to prison for parole violators.  A parolee now can only go to prison if they have a new qualifying conviction.

PROP 47 was passed by voters in 2014.  It reduced some felonies to misdemeanors (drugs, shoplifting, bad checks, forgery, sex trafficking of a child, rape of an unconscious person, assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, serial thefts, assault on a police officer) and it reduced DNA collection.  Supporters of this proposition called it “The Safe Neighborhoods and School Act.” (Rather misleading!)

PROP 57 was passed by voters in 2016.  It released non-violent offenders (rape by drugs, assault with a deadly weapon, drive-by shootings, exploding a bomb to injure people).

Obviously, the passage of the legislation and propositions had negative unintended consequences.  As a result, police are handicapped when dealing with suspects, parole violators spend a few days in jail and then are released. (The parolee doesn’t even go in front of a judge.)  Concerning the felonies that were reduced to misdemeanors, the police can only issue a ticket (just like a traffic violation) and release the perpetrator instead of taking them to jail.  The crime rate is rising in California and Seal Beach and we need to put the criminals back in prison.

Over the years, there have been numerous pieces of legislation introduced by the State Assembly and Senate to correct these deficiencies; however, they died in committee because they either did not get a hearing or they did not receive enough votes.

The California legislature has turned its back on public safety.  It’s time for us to correct their mistake.  A coalition of public safety proponents has taken the initiative to address some of these flaws through a statewide ballot initiative called the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018.”  The initiative will enact a broad swath of critical reforms which include reversing the early release of violent offenders, holding serial thieves accountable, reinstating DNA collection for a number of misdemeanor crimes and repairing the state parole system.  If a sufficient number of registered voters sign petitions, this initiative will qualify for the November 2018 General Election.

Interestingly, the purported reasons for AB 109 and propositions 47 and 57 were to reduce the number of inmates in State prisons and reduce the Department of Corrections budget.  Well, the State reduced the number of inmates by 30,000 (returning them to our neighborhoods) but they failed to reduce the budget.  The Department of Corrections budget for 2010-2011 was $9.3 billion; the 2017-2018 budget is $11.3 billion with 30,000 less inmates.

According to FBI crime statistics and the California Department of Justice, the crime rate is rising in California.  Unfortunately, the crime rate is actually worse than these reports show due to reducing many felonies to misdemeanors.  These crimes are no longer included as part I felonies and are no longer included as property and violent crimes and yet the crime rate still increases.  Also, because of the lack of prosecution or results, many victims no longer report crimes to the police.

Signature gatherers for the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018” initiative will be around Seal Beach over the next few months.  The purpose of this article is to explain what the initiative is about.  So many times we see people trying to get signatures but we are unaware of why.  Talk to your neighbors, sign the petition and you will not only help our exceptional Police Department but you will help combat the rising crime rate in Seal Beach and California.

Jim Brady is a Seal Beach resident.

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